Ordering microfilm from the Family History Library is being discontinued as of 31 August 2017. You might be wondering if you should be ordering microfilm right away. The answer might be yes. First, determine if you will need any microfilm in the near future and determine if that microfilm has been digitized or not. Don’t understand what I’m talking about? Read on to find out!
The official announcement in a nutshell is this:
The last day to order microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, or aka FamilySearch, is 31 August 2017.
If you are relatively new to family history, you may not understand why this is such a big deal. Not all genealogists understand the significance of this announcement because they are not familiar with the lingo. Microfilmed verses digitized records for example.
Microfilm looks like a roll of film with pictures on it. Those pictures are of records. Organizations, like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have gone all over the world taking pictures of vital records and books to place on microfilm. Those microfilms are housed in Salt Lake City, Utah and are made available for others to look at when they visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake to do their family history and genealogy work.
The Church also made it possible to rent or borrow that microfilm. If there is a roll of microfilm you need to see, but you are not able to travel to Salt Lake City, you can pay a rental fee and have that microfilm sent to a Family History Center near you. At least, that’s how it is and will be until 31 August!
[Note: The Family History LIBRARY is the one in Salt Lake City. A Family History CENTER is a small room or building in an area, run under the direction of local Church leadership. There is only one Family History Library, but there are hundreds of Family History Centers.]
Microfilm vs. Digitized Records
Over the last several years, FamilySearch has been working hard to digitize the records. In other words, they took the microfilm and made a digital copy that could be viewed on a computer. When you see records on FamilySearch, that is what you are looking at…digitized records.
According to FamilySearch Q & A page, over 1.5 million microfilms have been digitized. But sadly, that is not all the microfilms there are. There are many (tens of thousands? millions? billions?) rolls of microfilm not yet digitized and that is where this new announcement is ruffling some feathers. Any microfilm that has not been digitized yet, will not be accessible to us until it is. When will that be? The estimated year of completion of microfilm into digitized records is 2020. So you might get lucky, and the microfilm you want will be digitized next year and you will be able to access it online…or it could be three years from now. The problem is, you don’t know if it will be sooner or later.
What You Need to Do Right Away
So, what you need to do right away is determine if you will need any microfilm in the near future and determine if the microfilm you need has been digitized or not. If it has not been digitized, you should order it and have it sent to your local Family History Center before the end of August. All microfilm that is ordered between now and 31 August will be on extended loan, but you won’t have to pay the $18.50 you used to when selecting extended loan. Instead, you will pay the standard $7.50 fee, but get the extended period of time which means, the film will remain in your center indefinitely*. Here is how to determine if the records you need have been digitized or if you need to order microfilm.
Let’s imagine I have some research to do in Harlan County, Kentucky. I would go to FamilySearch.org and click on “Search” and choose “Catalog” from the pull down menu.
At the next screen, I would type in the location I am researching in. Begin with a country, then a state or province, and work your way down from biggest to smallest. Then, click “Search.” [Note: I typically stop at the county level, but you can go down to the city, town, or parish level.]
You will then be directed to a list of categories. Bible records, cemetery records, naturalization records, and vital records are just a few of the many options for Harlan County, Kentucky. If you are following along with me, let’s scroll down and choose the Vital Records option.
One item is “Birth, marriages, deaths.” If I click on that, I will see a notification that Marriage Records for Kentucky are online. That means they have been digitized. However, if you look closely, you will see that births, marriages, and deaths are not online. If you needed these records, you would want to order the microfilm now, before 31 August.
I have made a quick video to go over this again and to show you how to order the microfilm you need. Sometimes it is just easier to have someone show you!
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* The word indefinitely in this sentence means that the film will stay in your center until those in charge feel it is no longer being used, the film becomes digitized and accessible online, or the center closes. The film is still the property of FamilySearch.